[QODLink]
Africa
Ex-Tunisian president denies role in deaths
Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali denies giving orders to fire on protesters during country's 2011 uprising.
Last Modified: 25 May 2012 00:17
Ben Ali [left] initially tried to downplay the month-long uprising, but later security forces used live fire against protesters [EPA]

The lawyer of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has denied charges that the deposed Tunisian leader had given orders to fire on protesters during last year's revolution and condemned a Tunisian prosecutor's calls for the death penalty.

A Tunisian military prosecutor demanded on Wednesday that the death penalty be imposed in absentia on Ben Ali over his role in the deaths of protesters in the central towns where the Arab Spring began last year.

Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia as protests swept Tunisia on January 14, 2011, has already been sentenced to decades in jail on charges ranging from corruption to torture.

No senior officials have so far been convicted over the deaths of more than 300 people in the Tunisian revolution, causing much anger among their families and raising pressure on the Tunisian government to ensure they get justice.

But even if Ben Ali is convicted in the deaths, there is little indication that Riyadh would be willing to extradite him.

Ben Ali's Beirut-based lawyer Akram Azoury said in a statement on Thursday that talk of the death penalty was politically motivated.

"The Tunisian military prosecution's call for the death penalty ... has a political rather than a judicial character and lays the ground for sentences that do not meet international standards like the sentences that were passed before," he said.

"All the officials questioned in this regard totally denied that president Ben Ali had given orders to use live rounds," Azoury said, urging the court to listen to all the taped conversations that took place between the presidential palace and the interior and defence ministries during the revolt.

"If the president is convicted despite this and in line with the demands of the public prosecution then such sentences will have no judicial value or international effect," he said.

Tunisia's government has faced persistent criticism over its failure to persuade Saudi Arabia to hand over Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser whose lavish lifestyle and clique of wealthy relatives had come to be seen by many Tunisians as symbols of Ben Ali's corrupt rule.

More than 20 officials, including Ben Ali, are facing charges at the military court in the western town of Kef over their role in the killing of protesters.

The prosecutor has demanded the toughest penalties for those officials, who include former interior minister Rakif Belhaj Kacem, but has only specified capital punishment for Ben Ali.

No date has yet been set for the verdicts.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.